When it comes to bodybuilding, diet and exercise are the most touted topics, and for good reason. But what else plays a factor in building muscle and getting shredded? Well, did you know that there are bodybuilding hormones? Hormones are part of the body building and strength training process and you can actually stimulate hormone production and harness the power of hormones to help you reach your body building goals. There are natural and lab created hormones. We’re going to talk about the natural hormones your body creates itself today and discuss how these hormones affect your muscle building and overall fitness goals.
Here are the fundamentals you need to know about the top 5 natural hormones and how they work in your body and play a role in body building.
Testosterone and Building Muscle
This is probably the muscle building hormone that you are most familiar with, and for good reason. Testosterone in males is primarily produced by the testicles and is also produced by the ovaries in women in smaller amounts. This powerful hormone regulates muscle mass, fat distribution, strength and bone mass so it is widely considered the most important hormone in muscle building.
Because testosterone promotes tissue growth, especially in the muscles, some bodybuilders will try to get more testosterone in their body through supplements, though that is banned in competitions because it’s not the safest, or best, way to increase testosterone.
If you want to naturally boost your testosterone and enjoy the benefits of this bodybuilding hormone then you can:
- Workout your legs. Your legs are your largest muscles so when you work them you are stimulating the production of more testosterone.
- Keep workouts shorter than 1 hour, doing multiple sets of each exercise.
- Keep your body pumped, resting for less than 1 minute during each rest interval.
- Keep your resistance training to 80-90% of your maximum.
Growth hormone is one of the best hormones for muscle growth. Produced in the pituitary gland, this vital compound plays a role in the development of your skeletal muscle tissue, body strength and in eliminating pesky body fat. The main role of this hormone during your life was to help you grow, but once your height was achieved around age 18, the hormone continues to work in your cell, cartilage, organ and muscle regeneration.
If you want to naturally boost growth hormone then try:
- Getting a good night’s rest. Your body releases growth hormone during its REM cycles of sleep and repairs damaged muscle cells during that time.
- Try intermittent fasting, after fasting for 18 hours then the human growth hormone naturally gets a big boost. Bonus, intermittent fasting helps cut the fat, giving you more defined muscles.
- Keep your workouts short and intense, this encourages a higher hormone output.
This hormone is produced in the pancreas in response to food intake. Insulin both moves amino acids to your muscle cells to help repair tissue along with breaking down food into glucose, fatty acids, amino acids, vitamin and minerals. Insulin also stores the glucose from your food within the muscle cells, putting that glucose to work as fuel during resistance training.
To get this bodybuilding hormone here are two tips:
- If you are trying to burn that last bit of stubborn fat, your body might fight against you. As your body shifts into survival mode to protect your remaining fat and muscle it makes it very hard to get rid of the last of your fat. The solution? Try eating healthy fats that won’t trigger your insulin such as fish, nuts and coconut oil.
- Consult with a dietician or get educated about diet. Insulin is one hormone that you can greatly influence and control with your diet and exercise.
Cortisol and Muscle
Cortisol is produced in the adrenal glands and in simple terms, it’s released under two circumstances; when you are stressed out or when your blood glucose levels fall too low. Both physical and emotional stress triggers the release of cortisol in the body and studies have shown that too much cortisol in the system results in extra belly fat. Cortisol breaks down your muscles when your blood sugar gets too low and breaking down tissue can prevent muscle gain. Unlike the other hormones we’ve looked at so far, this is the first hormone that we do not want to boost when working out.
Too much stress or low glucose levels and cortisol will take those body-building amino acids and convert them into glucose for energy, effectively preventing muscle mass increases.
How to minimize cortisol while bodybuilding:
- Avoid lengthy cardio sessions that would drop your blood glucose levels.
- When body building keep your exercises short so you don’t overly stress your muscles, triggering cortisol.
- Manage your emotional stress. Get enough sleep, eat healthy and deal with any emotional stress in your life to keep your hormones in balance for bodybuilding.
This hormone is best known for the “fight or flight” response it creates during times of stress. It’s a hormone secreted by the medulla of the adrenal glands.
Epinephrine constricts arteries and raises blood pressure to increase the heart rate to deliver oxygen more effectively when the body is under stress. If you’re doing an intense workout the body could trigger an adrenaline rush which will boost blood flow to the muscles and raise your oxygen uptake, helping you with greater stamina and endurance when you need it most.
Unfortunately it’s not all positive when your body releases epinephrine. While it’s giving you a major energy boost it’s getting the energy by breaking down glucose and energy stores in your muscles, which means less muscle gain.
Tip to take advantage of epinephrine:
- You won’t always experience an adrenaline rush when you’re working out. If you’ve varied up your workout and you are trying something hard or new to you then it’s possible you’ll get that super pumped feeling of an adrenaline rush. When this happens take advantage of the extra boost and let the stamina and endurance aid you in your workout.
Diet and Nutrition and Bodybuilding Hormones
Here are a few more tips and tricks for how diet and nutrition play a role on bodybuilding hormones:
- As mentioned above, intermittent fasting can be a great aid in boosting growth hormone.
- Eating carbs before or during your workout can help minimize cortisol levels.
- Avoid supplementing these hormones. While you might see a short-term gain many deal with long-term problems as the body tries to stay balanced with an influx of artificial hormones.
- Follow a balanced diet. A healthy diet helps regulate hormone levels.
- Eat protein after each workout to keep your testosterone levels high.